Accepting the Gift

My dad keeps bugging me about how long it’s been since I last posted, so before he hacks into my account and writes himself, I should probably update you on the past week.

Instead of writing a long post I can summarize in two pictures:

y_holy_eucharist

experience-all-the-emotions

Let me explain.  I’ve been spending wonderful amounts of time in Mass and Adoration.  However, since I am about to embark on a life altering journey, aka responding to God’s call (and heaven knows where that can lead), I am going through a roller coaster of emotions.  I’d imagine someone getting married in three weeks would experience similar feelings.

For example, here is a peek at what was going through my head at Mass today:

Fear threatens to choke me for a moment.  Am I doing the right thing? Wisps of old dreams drift in the back of my head – living in the slums like MoT…Then the Father sweeps me up in a moment of consolation. “Accept my gift,” he whispers.  I am grasping.

And then their faces appear without warning in my mind – these women who are destined to be my Sisters.  At the thought, fear turns into joy.  I long to begin now.

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Making an Isaac Sort of Sacrifice

Next week I’ll be in Cape Cod with my family and practicing detachment from technology.  Before I leave, I wanted to update you and let you know where I’m at on this journey towards the convent.

I don’t think I ever explained how it is that I can enter the TOR Sisters on August 11th.  As many of you know, this past year has been quite a roller coaster.  I served as a volunteer with Chi Rho Catholic Service Corps for a few months and then God called me to serve some of my family members in a different capacity.  I thought my job would enable me to enter in August, but as time went that seemed less and less possible.  Around Easter time, there was sense that God was asking me to really let Him prepare me and strip me of what is still holding me back from being truly free.  I thought He was asking me to wait a year and had made peace with that.  A few people suggested The Laboure Society, and I even signed up with them.

But God was asking me to make what I like to call an “Isaac” sacrifice.  About a month ago, I received an email which changed everything and made it suddenly very real.  I would have screamed for joy, but I was at work (there were some silent tears).  The TOR Vocations Director revealed that some potential changes in formation might allow me to enter with student loans.  Since it wasn’t for sure, the information was confidential – hence that post about secrets.

The changes are official though, which is why I am able to enter in a little more than a month.  Candidacy and Postulancy are being extended from six months to one year.  During this next year of candidacy I will be living with the community, experiencing their ministries, learning about their charisms, spirituality and way of life – basically, getting used to what will be a MAJOR life change.  Since this period is longer than it has been in the past, there will be time for fundraising.  The bottom line is, I need your help now more than ever.  I will not be making an income and will have limited access to means of communication.  In the next year I still need help paying off the rest of my student loans.

You can now send your donations directly to the order, at the address listed on top of the sidebar.  I would love to receive letters as well!

Although I deactivated my Facebook, one of my fellow candidates was kind enough to recreate a “Form a Franciscan” event.  Please join!

Finally, I would like to address the fact that this life God is calling me to makes little to know sense to most of the people around me, including my family.  Because it is my vocation, and I have put many hours into praying and reading about the vows and the TOR Charism, it makes perfect sense to me.  I must admit, when people ask what I deem silly questions about being a Sister, I have to check my sassiness and judgment.  I need some humility so please ask away!  And perhaps I will spend the next few posts on the purpose of religious life, especially the vows and the aspects which seem so radical.  Explaining these things helps me put my calling into concrete words and own the vocation of religious life.

Thank you for traveling with me so far and I invite you to continue praying with me as I take this next step!

How to Become a Rosary Ninja – Part 2

I already thought my new rosary was the bee’s knees, but apparently there is more to the story!  In the words of a very wise friend, “it’s basically the atom bomb of spiritual weapons!”

My grandmother found a letter from another nun in my great great aunt’s order – Benedictines based in New Jersey.  This letter explains the origin and special graces of the rosary.

“The Story about it is this.  About 50 years ago a Benedictine priest Father Lukas was in charge of Our Lady of Victory orphanage and he used to have the children send many “care” packages to the needy in Europe.  As a reward for his good works he was asked by the pope to request his own gift. Thus it was that the Pope [Pius XI] granted a plenary indulgence to each Hail Mary of the Rosary and to every bead of the Rosary.  And Father gave many of these rosaries to the Sisters who were at our Motherhouse.”

She also included a leaflet with the original letter from the Pope:

From the Vatican

March 23, 1925

Secretary of State to His Holiness

No. 40363

Very Reverend Father,

The Holy Father has reason to believe that it would please your Reverence to receive the faculty of blessing a certain number of Rosaries of the Blessed Virgin Mary in such a way that the “Indulgences of the Holy Land” be attached to every single bead or to every Our Father, Hail Mary and Gloria.
 
The Holy Father who knows, also by His own personal experience, with what zeal and charity and with what success your Reverence has sought to alleviate the sufferings brought upon Germany and Austria by the World War, and especially those of the clergy and seminaries, most willingly takes occassion to express anew all His paternal appreciation for your charitable help, by granting you as He does grant by my present letter, the faculty mentioned above.
 
With sentiments of pronounced and sincere esteem, I remain

Yours most affectionately in Our Lord,

P. Card. Gasparri

To the Reverend Father Lukas Etlin, O.S.B.

It also explains what is meant by “Indulgences of the Holy Land”:

“Holy Church has at all times…granted plenary indulgences to all who visit the places traversed by the Son of God in human form…Now, with this precious rosary in your hand, you can gain on every bead, that is, for each Our Father, or Hail Mary or Gloria, all the indulgences which you could gain by visiting the Holy Land.”

 The lesson of the day from the philosopher-princess was, “be a tortoise!”

“Pray, therefore, happy possessor of this most privileged rosary, pray with utmost reverence, but beware of haste, the fault into which so many Christians fall when they pray.  St. Francis de Sales warns us: Haste is the death of devotion.”

Beside Myself (Not in a Padre Pio kind of way)

Pentacost

I am beginning to form a bad habit of being beside myself. I wish I could claim to have been gifted with a Padre Pio-esque ability to bilocate, but, alas, it is simply that the Holy Spirit keeps leaving me dumbfounded.

In the last post I mentioned a veritable Catholic celebrity, Jackie Francois, not thinking (but maybe slightly hoping) that she might look at my little old blog. When I discovered that she had not only read the post, but put a link to it on her own blog, I will admit there was some Catholic fangirling (I will spare you, and her, the embarrassing details). Jackie is a beautiful role model of a Godly woman and I am honored by her compliment. Thank you!!

I guess there is at least one of you out there who really needs to pray this rosary novena since we both wrote about it! Whoever you are, get to it!

Already beside myself, I read in Jackie’s post: “Now, 49 days before our wedding, we are in the middle of a 54-day novena that will end the day before our wedding.” Turning to myself, I said, “self, something is fishy here…”

Quickly checking the date of Jackie and Bobby’s wedding confirmed my suspicions: it is in fact the same weekend as my entrance with the TOR’s.

Oh but, dear readers, it gets better. God is, after all, the ultimate one-upper.

Jackie and Bobby weave a story of the unlikely meeting of a fair maiden and a troll at a place called Black Rock.

In the very same month of the very same year, another young maiden was at this very same place spending time with her Beloved. It was there that she met the TOR Sisters, a community in which she could live out her vocation.

Where it all began...
Where it all began…

These are the unlikely intersections of seemingly separate lives which remind us how intimately we are actually connected as the Mystical Body of Christ. And maybe the Holy Spirit just likes to see me speechless. I’m sure I make quite a spectacle of myself on a regular basis, but only because He keeps taking me by surprise!

So here I sit beside myself, loving every minute of it.

Boycotting the Bucket List

Many people have a bucket list of things to do in their lifetimes or before a certain age.  A friend and I recently discussed creating a “before I enter the convent” bucket list.  This might include eating our favorite foods (cannolis and pizza), getting lost in the woods (oh wait, we already did that), and going horseback riding.  While pondering this list, it struck me that the attitude behind bucket lists is unhealthy and in that moment of realization my heart rejected creating one.

The danger of a bucket list is that it supports the idea that worldly things can fulfill us and make us happy.  It also supports the idea that by entering the convent and living a life of poverty, I will be “missing out” on things.  If being a religious Sister is my Vocation, and I am following the will of God, He will fulfill the deepest desires of my heart – which admittedly, do not include any of the things listed above (yes, even cannolis).  I will probably get to go places and experience things which I cannot imagine right now.  When we give everything to God, He gives back infinitely!

The only things that should be on my list are: Know, Love and Serve God, more and more everyday; Love everyone around me with His Heart.

If in the midst of spending time with loved ones there are cannolis, hiking, and horseback riding involved, then that will just be an added bonus!

Once we get to heaven, we’re not going to be thinking about how we should have visited the Grand Canyon or traveled to more countries.  The only thing we might regret is not loving Him as faithfully as we should have.  However, it is much more likely that we will be wordlessly basking in His Love!

Thanks for the Compliment!

You may not be surprised to learn that I have deactivated my Facebook, after that last poem I wrote.  During Mass yesterday it finally sunk in that this has to be a time for prayer and fasting.  I asked God what He wants me to fast from and I knew the first thing had to be Facebook.

DeactivateFacebook

Please excuse me while I get up on the soapbox again and rant about how silly Facebook can be.  I’m afraid that by becoming our main form of communication it has lessened the quality of our relationships.  I can learn all about another person without ever having a conversation with him or her – that’s just creepy!  So I went to delete my profile this morning and thought it would be a simple matter of pushing a button.  But no – like a co-dependent ex Facebook tried to coerce me into staying.  First it tried to tell me that it can give me something no one else can: “Your 599 friends will no longer be able to keep in touch with you.”  Firstly, those 599 people are not all my friends.  Secondly, WHEN DID FACEBOOK BECOME MY ONLY FORM OF COMMUNICATION?!?! Last time I checked I can call, email, or skype my friends…

Then the guilt: ____ will miss you, with lovely pictures of five of my friends.  Well yes, all of these people will miss me when I enter the convent, where my main form of communication will be good old-fashioned letter writing.  And this backfired because one of the people Facebook picked is a girl I am entering the TOR’s with…I will hopefully be seeing her lovely face every day for quite a while!

And lastly it is apparently required that I tell Facebook why I am leaving.  I chose “other” and explained that I am entering religious life, which does not allow me to have a profile.  Hey, they asked!

Well now that’s done – let the fasting and praying begin. (Of course Facebook made sure to tell me how easy it is to come back)

I keep talking about times of preparation and how they’re super awkward – well I better get comfortable with awkward for the next two months.  God is going to ask me to be still – to really examine the depths of my heart – and that’s downright terrifying.

Thank goodness, God knows that I can’t do this alone and has given me a wonderful friend for the journey.  Our lives compliment each other wonderfully.  She is most certainly called to marriage and I, of course, to religious life.  All of the Vocations should illuminate one another and work together to communicate the multi-faceted love of God.  Marriage reminds us of the nuptial nature of God’s Love, but  religious life reminds us that in the end God alone can fulfill us.  I would say our friendship does that pretty darn well.  She is joining me in solidarity as I prepare to enter the convent.

Lately, God has been calling us on parallel journeys – seriously the coincidences are getting scary!  St Therese keeps sending us roses, usually red and white ones together.  August 11th is a special day for both of us (I will let her tell you why that is).  This past Sunday marked two months until that day.  We both experienced direct and belligerent attacks from the devil, trying to deter us from our Vocations (ain’t nobody got time fo’ dat!!!).

I can’t express how excited I am to see what the future holds!  I know that God will use us to witness to the complimentary of the Vocations and His Love.

We have a special place in our hearts for the Visitation.
We have a special place in our hearts for the Visitation.

I told you I wouldn’t stop talking about this…

The bottom line of my last blog post was: don’t stress, God will take care of you if you place your life in His hands!  One point I didn’t mention is that our earthly Vocation is not the end all, be all of our lives.  A friend reminded me of this when he responded to the post:

I think that your insights apply equally to men and women, especially the concerning trend I have also noted in perpetual discerners.  Some saints (St. Benedict Joseph Labre) have been called to a state of perpetual uncertainty where their vocation is to have been searching, but I think these are exceedingly rare people.  Most of us have an ideal “place” prepared for us on this earth, so that we might best dispose ourselves to the “place” prepared for us in the Great Beyond.  It’s important, though, to remember that even our “vocation” is a means to an end, and even when it crystalizes and we’re married/in final vows/ordained it’s still a journey, and we’re still pilgrims.  The journey does not end there, but begin; for Christians, days do not begin with sunrise, but with sunset on the old day, the old way, the “old man” (cf. St. Paul, Fr. Cantalamessa, Genesis).  Hence, the question is St. Peter’s question:  “Quo vadis, Domine?“, “Where are you going, Lord?”, because our only “vocation” is to follow Him down the path He leads each one of us.  For me, this makes it a lot easier to give up perpetual discernment and make a choice, because I realize that (while immensely important) it’s not the end-all, be-all of everything.  I’m not called to be a religious, but a saint, and my destiny, my inheritance, my joy is not here, but in Heaven, and if I’m making a desperate error, He will tell me.  The vocation is our response to God’s calling us to live the life of Heaven on earth, it is where we find our deepest interior peace and joy, it is where we become fulfilled Christians, it is active love.

 

Remember, vocation just means being who you are!